Monday, September 18, 2017

The Mermaid Who Couldn't Sing

The Mermaid Who Couldn’t Sing

                                              By Valerie L. Egar

Lucca was a young mermaid who lived in the depths of the ocean with her family. She was beautiful with long, pale green hair, eyes that flashed gold in sunlight and a sleek mermaid’s body with shiny greenish-blue scales.
Lucca spent her days lounging on deserted beaches and evenings swimming in the waves.  She was happiest when the moon shone full upon the water and turned her world silver. She leapt from the water and played tag with her pet dolphin, Knoor.  She swam with schools of fish that glittered like stars.
But, Lucca had a big problem. Unlike other mermaids, Lucca couldn’t sing. Her voice was raspy and harsh. She couldn’t stay on key. When she tried singing high notes—a mermaid’s notable talent—not even a squeak came out.
“Mermaids are renowned for their musical ability, enchanting anyone who is lucky enough to hear their song,” lectured Mistress Salgum, the singing instructor at the Mermaid Academy. “Composed of water and starlight, mermaids’ songs go straight to the heart. We make the most beautiful music in the world.”
 When Lucca sang with the mermaid choir, Mistress Salgum always singled her out. “No, no, no! Sing sweetly and on key, like this.” She sang a perfect scale. “Now you do it.”
 Lucca cringed. “Do-ray-me-faaaa—“ Her voice wobbled from flat to sharp. No matter how often she tried, her voice did not improve. She sounded like a frog, croaky and harsh.
            Lucca felt sad she could not sing. Though her friends were kind and no one made fun of her, she felt she was a disappointment. She visited the doctor. “Is there anything that can help my voice?” The doctor prescribed squid ink mouthwash with seaweed extract. “Gargle three times a day,” he advised.
            Lucca did as she was told, even though it tasted awful. Her voice did not improve.
            Perhaps she should practice more? Alone on a deserted beach, she sang her scales.  Knoor listened from the water. “How did I sound?” she called. Knoor sadly shook his head. Practice was not helping.
            She sat on a rock and started to cry.  Suddenly, the rock moved. “Oh!” A cranky sea turtle poked his head from its shell.
            “Use me as a chair, why don’t you?” he grumbled.
            “So sorry,” said Lucca, and rolled onto the sand.  She continued to cry.
            “Why all the tears?”
            Lucca explained the trouble she had singing.
            “Let me hear.”
     Lucca managed half of  “Mermaid’s  Anthem” when the turtle raised one of his flippers. “Stop. Indeed, you are no singer.” He shook his head as though his ears hurt.
            Lucca cried even harder. “I’m never going back home! I can’t!”
            The turtle stared. “If there’s anything I know, every mermaid has musical ability. Go to the bottom of the ocean and bring back some glass bottles.”
            Lucca stopped crying and dove into the water. After a short time, she came back with a few bottles.
            The turtle told her to put different amounts of water in the bottles.  “Now hit them gently with a clam shell and tell me what you hear.”
            The bottles made different sounds depending on the size of the bottle, the amount of water in it and where Lucca struck it. The sounds were lovely and Lucca found herself making up her own songs.
            Every day after that, Lucca found more bottles and practiced. Soon she had composed a symphony. She played it for the old turtle. "I hear the ocean's roar and the songs of the whales in your music. That is beautiful."
            She  played it for Mistress Salgum. “Just like I said! Every mermaid has musical talent.” She asked Lucca to play her symphony before the choir sang, which is exactly what Lucca did. Everyone clapped so much and for so long, high waves crashed on the beach until dawn.

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.


Monday, September 11, 2017

The Gift of the Countess

                                                The Gift of The Countess
                                                         by Valerie L. Egar

            Louisa Sophia Beck told Larissa she was a Countess, from a country no one remembered.
            Momma said,  “Sorry Larissa, but a real Countess wouldn’t live down the hall from us.”
            The Countess knew which vacant lots grew the best flowers and she took Larissa to gather them. They arranged them in jelly jars and coffee cans and crowded them around the old woman's apartment. Then, Larissa and the Countess sipped tea and watched sparrows fly in the open window for breadcrumbs the Countess spread on the rug.
            “The royal gardens had peacocks,” said the Countess, “but today, sparrows will do.”

            Larissa told her mother the sparrows were tame enough to eat from her hand.
            Momma chopped onions and never looked up. “Set the table, Larissa. It's silly to have birds flying around inside.”
            On rainy days, Larissa and the Countess dressed in fancy clothes from an old trunk. The Countess showed Larissa how to waltz and curtsy to a princess.
            When Larissa showed Momma, she shook her head. “That will be the day when we see a princess around here.”
           At night, Larissa stayed awake until she heard her mother shut the television off.  She ran to the window and watched the Countess walk past the darkened windows of the thrift shop towards the river. 
            The lights are beautiful reflected in the water,” the Countess said. “If I turn my head just right, I see a castle.”  
            “No, you may not go with her some night,” said Momma. “The only thing you'll see is the paper factory and that stinks!”
            When Momma left for work each morning, she said to Larissa, “Maybe you could meet some nice girls your age at the playground today.” The presents she bought at the end of the week were always playground presents— a ball, kite, skateboard.
            Momma said, “Why don't you go upstairs and visit Carmen? You could play with the new baby.” But as soon as Momma left, Larissa ran to see the Countess. The Countess changed dry crackers into a tea party, the neighborhood market into an exotic bazaar.
            One night, the Countess did not wake from her dream of gardens and moonlit castles. When the sparrows came to the window, it was closed tight.    
            Larissa stayed in her room. She remembered the Countess pouring tea from a pot silvery as the moon. She remembered dressing up in fancy clothes and laughing. 
           Momma made cookies, but Larissa didn't want any. Momma bought a new game, but Larissa didn't want to play. Larissa missed the Countess. She heard the train and wished she was on it going far, far away.      
            Momma poked her head in the door one night. “Would you like to come with me?” she asked. “I thought you might like to take a walk.”  Larissa shrugged. She found her sweatshirt and followed Momma down the stairs.
            They sat on the bench near the river for a long time. When Larissa squinted a certain way, she saw a castle shimmer in the water.
            “Do you see it Momma?” she asked.
            Momma looked and looked and thought maybe, just maybe, she did.

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           Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
             Published May 1, 2016, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Truth Test

                                    The Truth Test
                                                By Valerie L. Egar
When it came time for Princess Regina to marry, she discussed the matter with the King and Queen. Together they decided her husband didn’t need to be a prince or handsome as a movie star. He didn’t need to have enough gold to buy the princess diamonds. Someday, the man who married the princess would be King, and in a leader, truthfulness was more important than lineage, looks and wealth. The man who married the princess needed to be truthful.
            A notice was sent throughout the kingdom for all eligible males to apply. By the end of the week, hundreds of young men crowded the castle gates. The royal scribes interviewed them and most were quickly eliminated. One said he had no allergies, but his eyes puffed shut when he pet the royal cat. Another bragged he was an ace with the cross-bow, but every arrow missed the target. Still another swore he loved licorice, the princess’ favorite candy, but gagged when he ate a piece.
            When the scribes finished, only three candidates remained.
            The first, Edgar Evans the Fourth, spent the day with the royal family. They sailed on the lake and picnicked on the beach. That night, Princess Regina and he danced until midnight. At bedtime, Edgar was shown to his bedroom.
           Poor Edgar!  The royal chambermaids sprinkled the bed with itching powder, as the King directed. All night, he itched and scratched, tossed and turned. He didn’t sleep a wink.
            At breakfast, the Queen asked how he’d slept. Edgar didn’t want to be impolite. Though his eyes were red and he was yawning, he said, “Very well, Your Majesty.”
            “A lie!” shouted the King. Out the door went tired Edgar Evans the Fourth.
            Rufus Alfred was next. He entertained the princess with stories about his world travels. He laughed a little too loud at the King’s jokes, but the King knew his jokes were funny and overlooked it. When it came time to dance, Rufus gracefully whirled Princess Regina around the ballroom.
            When it was time for bed, Rufus Alfred was shown to a bedroom, specially prepared for him.  The mattress, filled with nails and bolts, was lumpy and hard.
            Rufus Alfred slept not a wink. He thought the floor might be more comfortable than the bed, but he didn’t want to ruin his new silk pajamas, so he tossed and turned on the lumpy mattress all night.
            At breakfast, the Queen asked Rufus how he slept.
            “Awful!” he said. “The mattress was so hard, I slept on the floor.”
            “A lie!” shouted the King when the royal chambermaid reported there was no evidence Rufus spent the night on the floor.
            The castle door slammed behind poor Rufus Alfred.
           Bixbe Denderderby presented a bouquet of yellow roses to Princess Regina  and smiled politely when the Queen showed him the family photo albums. When the princess and he played tennis, he didn’t let her win, because pretending he didn’t play very well would have been a lie. He could hardly dance, but didn’t mind the princess showing him how.
            When it came time for bed, Bixbe was shown to the haunted bedroom. The bed was large and soft, and Bixbe was soon fast asleep. “Ooooo!” A terrible howl came from the closet. “Woooooooo.” Another came from under the bed. Bixbe sat up. “Ghosts,” he commanded, “Stop the racket!  I’m trying to get some sleep!”
            The howling and moaning continued.  Bixbe shrugged. “All right, party on,” he said, stuffed cotton in his ears and went back to sleep.
            In the morning, the King and Queen inquired about how he’d slept.
            “Quite well,” he said, “once I put cotton in my ears. The room is haunted and the ghosts were rather noisy.”
            At that point, they knew Bixbe was not only truthful, but brave and resourceful, too. They decided he would make a fine husband for the princess and someday, an excellent king.

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             Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.